I admit, before I played this one title, I never really gave much thought to accessibility in games. But I think it's so important that it happened and I hope other people will be inspired to play it too and learn from their experience. I had no idea what I was getting into with A Blind Legend, I thought it just sounded like a good indie game and didn't bother to read the full description. I thought for sure there would be some visuals for the non-visually impaired. Nope, not even close.
A Blind Legend is a game about a noble knight, Edward Blake, who must rescue his wife from the evil clutches of a brutal King. With the help of his daughter Louise, Blake makes his way after the culprits with his sword and shield. The thing is, Blake is blind. The entire world is created through the most creative and outstanding sound system, binaural 3D. Sound fills the world around you with voices, footsteps, rain, horse-drawn carts, the hammering of blacksmiths, and other noises. When you move Blake through the game, either by walking forward or backward, or by turning from side to side, those sounds also turn around you in your headphones.
I cannot begin to convey what a profound experience this was. It was so intense and required so much of my attention that playing for more than half an hour overwhelmed me. I had to stop because it just felt too real. I was so immersed that I felt if I closed my eyes, I would be as blind as Edward Blake. The intensity led me to think on those who play this game who are visually impaired, and not just hardcore gamers who want to try all the games. I started thinking about how they would use a smart phone, my computer, my consoles. All have colour-blindness mode, a feature where everything is read out to you, and mappable controls. But that isn't all that's needed.
At the Playstation Experience 2016 event, Sony held a panel titled “Accessibility: Making Games for All Gamers”. It was perfectly timed with my discovery of A Blind Legend, despite the age of the game. At this panel, they discussed what defined accessibility, what the game industry was doing to help make games more accessible, and what the future needed. For example, one of the particpants emphasized the need for awareness and education to both game developers and consumers. Once educated, developers will be able to enforce the necessary changes to their games as early on as possible. This is because patching games for accessibility after release is often next to impossible - even with something as apparently simple as colorblindedness.
One of their main suggestions for the future was a kind of fact sheet or accessibility rating which would help to inform a consumer if the game is possibly playable for them before they buy it. Which is pure brilliance, to be honest. That really should be something that is on the back of every game just like the ESRB rating. It would aid both consumers and developers in education for how to bring games to everyone. Games should be for everyone, and I am so glad I happened upon A Blind Legend to encourage my awareness.